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Two Attacks Hit Jerusalem in Apparent Retaliation for Gaza Violence

A Palestinian man drove an excavator into an empty bus, killing a pedestrian, before an IDF soldier was shot in a separate incident.

by Alice Speri
Aug 4 2014, 4:50pm

Photo via Reuters

In two separate attacks in Jerusalem today, a Palestinian man drove an excavator into an empty bus, killing an Israeli pedestrian before being shot dead by police, and an unidentified gunman shot and injured a soldier near the city’s Hebrew University, before fleeing the scene.

The videos below show the aftermath of the bus attack. Surveillance video broadcast on Israeli TV showed the construction vehicle’s mechanical arm tearing into the side of the vehicle, which then overturned. Footage also showed the body of the excavator’s driver dangling from the cabin after police shot him dead, Reuters reported. Police later identified him as an East Jerusalem resident in his 20s.

A spokesman for Israel’s police forces said on Twitter that they were considering the incident a “terror attack” and that the driver had slammed into the bus deliberately.

While nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks, the violence came after weeks of heightened tensions in Jerusalem, where a Palestinian teen was set on fire and killed last month in retaliation for the murder of three young Israeli settlers kidnapped weeks earlier.

Palestinians in the city have also taken to the streets and clashed with Israeli forces while protesting the military offensive in Gaza, which has now lasted 29 days. More than 1,822 people have been killed there since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge there, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health on Sunday. The UN stated that at least 373 of those victims are children.

A spokesman for Hamas, while denying the group’s involvement, told Reuters that the Jerusalem attacks “come as a natural reaction to the crimes and massacres by the Occupation against our people in Gaza.”

It’s déjà vu in Gaza all over again. Read more here.

Israeli officials had been fearing a spike in attacks in retaliation for the violence in Gaza.

"From the moment fighting started in the south, we realized such an incident of a lone attacker can happen," Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told local reporters. "(The driver's) whole family is being interrogated. We want to know who sent him, if he was acting alone, whether he belonged to a network — all those things are being checked."

Meanwhile, Israel earlier declared a seven-hour, partial "humanitarian window" in Gaza on Monday. The ceasefire is the eighth since the conflict started, but nearly all have failed to stop the fighting, the Guardian reported. Some strikes reportedly resumed shortly after the ceasefire began, with at least one Palestinian — an eight-year-old girl — killed in the Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza.

The latest, temporary suspension of hostilities came on the heels of renewed international criticism after the third deadly Israeli strike to hit a UN school used to shelter civilians. Using his strongest words yet, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned Sunday's attack on a UN school in Rafah, in which at least 10 civilians were killed, as “a moral outrage and a criminal act.”

"The Israel Defense Forces have been repeatedly informed of the location of these sites," Ban's spokesman said. "This attack, along with other breaches of international law, must be swiftly investigated and those responsible held accountable."

The IDF said the episode was under investigation, but a spokesman insisted that the forces were "targeting a number of terrorists."

"We do not target schools. We certainly do not target civilians. We are still reviewing the incident," the IDF representative told the Guardian. But the paper reported that the town of Rafah was overwhelmed with casualties and that "children’s bodies were stored in an ice-cream freezer as the morgue ran out of space."

The graphic video below shows rescue workers pulling a man's body out from the rubble, following the shelling of the town on Sunday.

Last Wednesday, another strike on a UN shelter in Jabalya refugee camp killed at least 15 civilians.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch also released a report accusing Israeli forces of firing and killing civilians trying to flee the town of Khuza’a, near the Israeli border, in several incidents between July 23 and July 25, at a time when no Palestinian fighters were present and no firefights were taking place. The IDF did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

"Deliberate attacks on civilians who are not participating in the fighting are war crimes," the watchdog said.

Follow Alice Speri on Twitter: @alicesperi

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